Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Posted July 31, 2022 · Member Share Posted July 31, 2022 Here is a question that remained unanswered for me about Roman imperial coins: why so many right facing busts and almost never the emperor turned to the left? Here are some assumptions. Anyone with some knowledge of the Latin language will have guessed that the left side does not exactly have a good reputation among the Romans. The term is in fact said to be sinister (as opposed to dextra - the right). It has spread into many languages, giving for example the word "sinistre" in French. All because of the augurs, a religious college that interpreted the flight of birds to read the omens sent by the Gods. To sum up, before an important decision, the augurs observed the sky: if the birds came from the right, the Gods were favorable; if they came from the left, the omen was unfavorable. It is clear that the left side was deemed bad, harmful. Another theory is that the left has a negative connotation, because of the link that the Ancients established with shadow or darkness. Look at a Roman map: the four cardinal points are laid out as we still know them today, so that on the right is East and on the left is West. If you look towards the North, the sun therefore rises on the right hand, and disappears on the left hand: from the right comes light and heat, which disappears on the left, generating darkness and cold. Proponents of this theory also argue that the Latin term scaevus (left, or clumsy...), an earlier adjective apparently of the same etymological origin, comes from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning "shadow". What about lefties in all this? They were, in a way, the collateral victims of the Romans' aversion to everything related to their favorite side. By extension, they were first seen as disadvantaged by the Gods and therefore unlucky, then they were considered clumsy and finally, they were mistrusted because they were reputed to be crafty and disloyal. At the birth of a child, when the latter seemed to favor his left hand to the detriment of the right, his left arm was bandaged along his body to prevent him from using it, and to encourage him to use the right ! But there were some exceptions; we can assume that the Emperor Tiberius was left-handed, according to a passage from Suetonius: "Tiberius was strong, sturdy, and above the ordinary height. Broad in shoulders and chest, he had, from head to toe, all limbs well proportioned. His left hand was more agile and more stronger than the right. Its joints were so strong that it pierced a freshly picked apple with its finger, and with a flick it wounded a child and even an adult in the head." (Suetonius, "Life of Tiberius", 68.) The Emperor Commodus also proclaimed loud and clear that a was a leftie, which allowed him to highlight his exploits as a gladiator: "He fought as a gladiator. He devoted himself to the exercises of this profession and used the armor of those called secutores, the shield in his right arm and the wooden sword in his left hand; for he was proud of 'to be left-handed'. (Dion Cassius, "Roman History", LXXII - 19.) On at least 95% of Roman imperial coins, we will find on the obverse the bust of the Emperor facing right ( exception on Probus’ coinage). But the reason why there were scarce or rare left facing bust remains a mystery. During the time of the Severans, almost all busts were right facing. But with the arrival of the 3rd century left facing busts began to slowly reappear. One reason for showing the bust facing left is to indicate a consular or martial purpose. This type was not rare during the time of Probus and continues into the Tetrarchy and the Constantinian era. Let’s notice that the left facing helmeted military busts of Constantine from the mint of London during the right star issue can be more common comprising around 10% of the issue discovered in hoards. It also seems that in this period of time these left busts were used with younger rulers for honoring their first appearance on coinage. During the minting of the FEL TEMP REPARATIO issue, the left facing bust was indicating the middle of three denominations. Since I’m collecting Gallic rulers coins, I know for sure that left facing busts are hard to find and very expensive… That’s the reason why I was very excited to acquire this Victorinus’ specimen, with the added bonus of an heroic bust type. All known examples are from the same pair of dies, and you only see one for sale every 10 years; a handful are in the hands of private collectors. Trier 18mm 2.48g IMP C VICTORINVS·P·F·AVG / PAX AVG Pax holding olive branch & long transverse sceptre I’d really love to see your own examples, and I’m wondering how many Emperors we can show off here. Please show me your coins ! 34 1 1 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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